March 7, 2013
I think it's time for another before and after post, don't you? If you missed my last one and are wondering what the heck I'm talking about, you can read about it in my Browned Butter Pecan Shortbread: Before & After post.
In a nutshell, I'm slowly updating my older posts with newer, improved photos - and adding a critique of my older photos rather than just deleting them willy nilly.
While I'd love to banish them to the dark recesses of my computer's recycle bin forever, I thought it more helpful to share them and add the tips I've learned along the way. Today I chose one of my most popular recipes, my Chunky Twix Cookies. I don't use the term "The Best" very often, but these cookies really are the best cookies I've made to date. They've made it around the blogging world quite a bit, and are highly coveted by my family. Since these are my best cookies, I thought they deserved a better photo. Now let's trash my photo! :)
Here is the Before:
When I first started trying to improve my food photography, I decided to jump on the bandwagon with everyone else, and tried to do what everyone else was doing. This led me to Michael's to stock up with all kinds of patterned papers to act as "backdrops" to my recipes. A few bucks poorer, a few years wiser, and I learned that SIMPLE is better.
What makes a striking photo? Usually an image that has a single theme or idea, with clutter kept to a minimum makes for the best photo. Successful photos rely on elements of composition: line, shape, form, texture, pattern, and color. Every photo whether intentional or not, contains one or more of these elements.
In this image, the patterned paper clashes with the patterned plate and the deeply textured cookies. There's also too much color going on. When composing an image, try to keep the colors to 3 or less. More than that and your picture can become distracting. There's just too much going on in this picture and it stresses the eye out trying to decide what to focus on.
2. Awkward Focus Spot:
When choosing where to focus on your food, it's best to focus on the area that is closest to you, this is especially true when you're using a large aperture (small number) because your depth of field (the area that is in focus) will be shallow. In this image you can see I placed my focus point near the center of the image, rather than the area of cookie closest to me. This makes the front of the food out of focus, which doesn't work in this image.
The way the plate is angled, the out of focus part of the cookie is the center of attention, and where your eye naturally wants to fall. For this reason, I should have set my focus point to the closest area of cookie, or stopped down my aperture setting so more of the cookies were in focus.
3. Composition Too Tight:
As in my last post, here is a prime example of when to back up already Amber! :) I'm either too close to my food or have cropped it too close. The plate, glass of milk, and background are so close together there's no room to breathe. When looking at a photo you want to have room for your eye to move around the image. That's not too say don't ever have a close up, but in this photo it doesn't work very well.
Now here's the After:
Settings: f4.0; Shutter 1/160; ISO 1250
A little easier on the eyes don't you think? I kept it simple with a plain white napkin under the serving dish, the milk and and cookie rack are arranged in the background to allow the eye to wander around the image and come back to the main point of focus - those yummy cookies!
I also made sure to place my focus point on the front edge of the closest cookie, to eliminate any out of focus areas on the cookie. You'll notice I set my aperture to f4.0 so my depth of field wasn't too shallow. I was lazy and didn't want to pull out my tripod, so this shot was handheld. But if I wanted to decrease my ISO I could have lowered my shutter speed accordingly. I used my 85mm lens for this shot, and generally you want to keep your shutter speed to about 1 to 1 1/2 times the focal length of your lens (if hand holding), to avoid camera shake. So for an 85mm focal length, you want to keep your shutter speed at least 1/80 or 1/100. For a 50mm focal length - 1/50 or higher, etc.
You can find the recipe in my original post for Chunky Twix Cookies. If you have any questions about this critique or want me to go into more detail, just leave a comment and I'll be happy to answer them! If you found this helpful I'd love to hear from you. Thanks!
Note: I don't claim to be an expert, but I have learned a thing or two over the years and will gladly share those things with people. I'm also a family photographer in the St. Louis area, so if you're interested in seeing my work outside of food photography, visit Amber Potter Photography.
Update: If you're just starting out in the photography world and need some help understanding all that photo jibber-jabber, my pal Karly at Buns In My Oven has started a great series called So You Want To Be A Better Photographer? Her tutorials are sure to help you "see the light". Hehe...bad pun? Anyway, her tips combined with my before and after critiques are a good way to see the photography principals put into practice, and learn to recognize what's wrong with an image. When you can tell what's wrong with a photo and why it doesn't work, then you can better improve your own skill!
This month I also joined a new project - The Leftover's Club. This is a group of blogger's who get paired up with another blogger each month, to share the leftovers from the goodies we made. It's a great way to get to know each other, and have someone else take some of the temptation off our hands. This month I'm paired up with Budget Gourmet Mom, and can't wait to share our goodies! Sound like fun? Visit The Leftovers Club online to learn more and sign up!
Savory Simple - Cappuccino Cookies
Damn Delicious - Blueberry Lemon Bars
Give Peas a Chance - Spiced Vanilla Honey Biscotti
Kelly Bakes - Dulce de Leche Digestive Cookies
Sprinkled With Flour - Chunky Twix Cookies
Pineapple and Coconut - Cinnamon Dolce Oatmeal Cookies
Budget Gourmet Mom - Salted Caramel Peanut Butter Stuffed Cookies